In the barracks

20th October 2017

So I was admitted to hospital and this is where some of my memory becomes a bit foggy. I was put on a mixed bay with about five other women to start with. It’s safe to say I was the ‘youngest’ recruit. I felt a bit like I’d been put on some outward bound school trip only I’d been shoved in with a group of teachers instead of my school friends or what I imagine going to an army training camp would be like, only we were the next set of ‘Dad’s Army’ recruits who hadn’t quite made the grade to go into full battle.

An unlikely bunch

You each have your own bed, tv, chair, locker and curtains which can be drawn round (for so called privacy if you wish). I was on an end bay which was great as there was probably slightly more room so felt like I had come up trumps there. Something inside your mind likes to think your getting a better deal than the person next to you. It’s wrong I know and I don’t think this soley applies to hospital beds. I’ve also been part to discussions over office desks, window views on a plane, hotel suites the list goes on. We train ourselves to constantly wanting more, better, bigger thinking if only I had this I would be happier.

The truth is the happiest person in the room is more likely the one who’s accepting and grateful for their current surroundings regardless if the person next to them has got a new bigger, better monitor. It’s hard to train your mind to think like this though as part is essentially greed and your aspiration and drive to achieve more and part probably is connected to your overall wellbeing. It’s something I try to be more conscious of at least and grateful for what I do have rather than resentful for what I don’t.

Like on any holiday or stay away. I like to set up my stall and unpack everything straight away. I like to feel organised and know where everything is (Ste will laugh at this as he thinks I’m pretty untidy at home and currently struggle to find a matching pair of underwear most mornings).  I’m not sure if I did this straight away as I wasn’t feeling the best but I managed to make it comfortable and homely for the short period I was going to be in there at least.

Daily Routine

Being in hospital is slightly different than being in the outside world. In some respects it’s regimented to the fact that you do almost the same thing day in and day out. Your day becomes what is imposed on you, when you wash, your next medication, when you wait for the doctors visits, visiting times, when you eat and to some point when you sleep. On the days that you’re feeling better it can become extremely monontonus but on the not so good days waiting for your medication to come so you can get some rest or waiting for the doctor to visit can feel like a life time.

After a while you become disassociated with the outside world, i.e. bills, what’s going on in the news, school messages, the weather and general day to day things you normally think of. It’s only when you come out that you realise the world didn’t stop it’s just your main focus was your health and getting out of hospital and unfortunately there wasn’t time for both.

Mornings usually started at 6.30/7.00am where your greeted with a “good morning ladies” ,curtains drawn and then asked if you would like some breakfast or a wash. This is great on some mornings when you’re feeling good but on the mornings where the night before you’ve been in pain or kept awake all night and just managed to drift off about two hours before you pretty much feel like returning the “good morning” with a punch to the face. Not that I would but were all allowed to have those sort of thoughts sometimes aren’t we??

See in the morning the biggest task is to get everyone fed, washed and watered and then the beds can be stripped and cleaned after all everyone has a job to do. I was lucky in the sense in the time I was in I didn’t need someone to help me do this. Unfortunately some of my ‘roomies’ were solely dependant on waiting for someone else to help them go to the toilet, wash and sometimes eat. Although I struggled to move at some points, I could and I needed to stop being so lazy and just crack on. See in hospital it’s good in a sense that you’re assessed and prioritised from the level of care you need not on your social status, wealth, age, gender or race it would just be good if sometimes this applied a bit more in day to day life.

Whilst breakfast was being served you generally got your medication for the morning depending on where you were in the ward was how soon this arrived. After that on the days where I felt good it seemed like an extremely long wait until lunch or visiting time.

I decided this was the time I needed to utilise the most. I spent time reading, meditating, writing, colouring and exercising just to keep me occupied. Not all days were like this as some days I’m not sure I did much other than lie in bed but on the ones later down the line where my main focus was escape I knew that it wasn’t going to happen if I didn’t build up my strength by climbing those stairs and doing those laps of the lift area. These were the things that along with medication I’m certain they got me home to my family.

Lunch times were pretty much the same as breakfasts. In this country we’re extremely lucky we have meals provided to us but if I’m totally honest I struggled to find something to eat which suited my current dietary requirements or even get what I ordered on most days. Even the ‘healthy’ or vegetarian options often included dairy, cheese, meat, processed foods. All things I had spent time and effort reading that can contribute to all sort of health issues not just cancer and that I had been trying to avoid to give myself a fighting chance, were unfortunately on the menu. I was grateful for the options but I was even more grateful for the supply of foods from family and friends when they visited.

At first I felt pretty awkward about this to the HCA (Health Care Assistants) I felt I was being difficult. I would ask for my own milk with tea and when meal times came I often had a vegetable soup or something similar like plain chicken breast to add to my meal (of peas or carrots) which they needed to warm up. I felt guilty for wasting their time in a sense, so as I felt better and more mobile I would just go and sort myself out when I could.

Looking back I shouldn’t have felt so awkward at the end of the day it was my lifestyle choice such as smoking, drinking or religion was to some extent. We’re taught to accept people’s decisions, so food choices shouldn’t be any different. I am eating healthily (most of the time) because I believe that this along with my treatment will beat cancer. Ultimately if we all looked at our diets a bit more avoided processed foods and refined sugars maybe the NHS wouldn’t be under such strain in the first place. After a while the assistants that got to know me more understood this and were extremely helpful. I even showed some the books I had been reading to support this.

Tonight’s meal peas and gravy. Peas anti-inflammatory, gravy not quite vegan and healthy I know but I am Northern.

Visiting Times

At 2pm it was visiting time this seemed such a wait from the morning and I’m sure it would be better if families could come early to maybe help with the things such as getting people dressed, hair washed, feeding etc. I would literally count the clock for visiting. It was either my chance for escape or some security and help as to what was going on, on the not so good days. See going down the lift to the shop to buy more healthy foods was the highlight. At some point I was allowed to go out with a visitor across the road to Booths (other stores are available) for a cup of tea. It was like day release from prison although I’m not sure I’d get very far if I decided to escape for good. Most days my parents would come, Ste and the kids would usually come in the evenings as he was still working. My friends and sister would come in between which gave my mum and dad a bit of a rest.

Visiting time was over at 4.00pm and this was the bit I didn’t think made much sense. We then had tea (dinner) around 5.30pm and the next lot of visiting was at 6pm. In my mind it should have been spread out so visiting was earlier in the day then at 6pm in the evening. Most days you were pretty much worn out from the first lot of visitors and not long after your dinner (tray of peas or carrots in my case) would arrive then so did your next lot of visitors so some days you struggled to keep your eyes open.

Evening visiting was the hardest. Generally Ste would come straight from work so we had to try and find him something to eat then not long after he would have to go. We would often sit on a table together chatting whilst I watched him eat a sausage roll and chips whilst I sat watching with a herbal tea dressed in my ‘comfy clothes’ often with a drip attached to my arm. It wasn’t quite as romantic as lady and the tramp but it was special in the sense that we were together and could have a laugh and be normal (ish).

Sometimes he would bring the kids during the week but then they had school so often got tired or bored (I’m not sure which). In a way it’s more difficult and draining for the visitors who regularly come to see you. They’re still living in the ‘outside world’ so to speak but trying to juggle visiting you, catching up with what’s happened to you during the day and lying awake worrying at night if your ok when you’re too tired to respond to texts. Usually they’re doing this whilst still having to get up every day to do a days work while I was often sat there wishing time would pass quickly most days.

Ste or my parents would try and leave everything at night so it was easy to access or help me get changed into my night things. After they had gone I often did a few laps of the ward in the evening and try to settle down to watch a programme or read in the hope to tire myself out enough to get some rest or a least until the last lot of medication came. I often knew that the nights were the worst and that’s when I wanted those whom I felt secure around me the most but you were in the hands of the nurses and doctors. It’s not that they weren’t capable or caring it’s just that unfortunately unlike your family and friends you’re not necessary their number one priority. They prioritise their time to those that need it the most which despite what you think at the time of need it isn’t always you. Their time and care is often stretched between so many that the sound of the bed buzzer at night is a common noise amongst others.

That was the general daily routine. It wasn’t what I was used to but one I was going to be accustomed too. I just had to accept it be grateful for the care I was receiving and make the most of each day the good and the bad ones. Now I was settled in my barracks next step was to make friends not to mention beating the enemy, cancer of course.








  1. Dad
    29/06/2018 / 16:01

    What’s wrong with peas and gravy,all you need is a meat and prater pie to go with it,a good meal for me.
    Love Dad xxxx

    • Rachel
      02/07/2018 / 13:50

      Maybe skip the potatoe pie and just stick to peas and gravy x x

  2. Leila
    29/06/2018 / 17:40

    Matching underwear !!!! Do people actually do that ??? ?

    • Rachel
      02/07/2018 / 13:49

      I’m thinking it’s just me Leila… or you’ve been out of the game for too long ;0)

      • Leila
        16/07/2018 / 21:50

        Ha ha , that as well ??

  3. Colette
    29/06/2018 / 20:40

    Matching undies are overrated! You’re doing SO well and I love your writing. Hope you’re all taking great care of each other. Sure you are ?? xxx

    • Rachel
      02/07/2018 / 13:48

      Thank-you yes I’m doing great thanks Colette… maybe you’re right life’s too short for matching underwear x x

  4. Jeanette
    15/07/2018 / 10:34

    Delayed Response – but did read it whilst away…just not enough wi fi to give feedback. Another Brilliantly written blog….ususal emotions involved…but often laughter…brilliant observations…Keep at it..but only if you have time. So proud of you. Matching underwear is definitely overrated…ok if you have too much time on your hands – or special occasions Ha Ha … Keep at it…in your unmatching undies lol xxxxx

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